Prince Harry visits VR Lab to see prosthetics and rehab research

Prince Harry visits Impact VR Lab

The Duke of Sussex learnt about the Communication and Computing Research Centre’s latest Virtual Reality (VR) research during a visit to Sheffield Hallam University last week. Prince Harry was given a demonstration of a system supporting the rehabilitation of amputees by Impact VR Research Lab lead researcher Ivan Phelan and Maurice Lee, a prosthetics user who has been helping to refine the system and give feedback on it.

Prince Harry with Ivan Phelan

Prince Harry with Ivan Phelan

Prince Harry also met Jude Wilson and Jordan Best, 3D artists working on the project, and Knowledge Transfer Manager for the C3RI Shirley Lindley.

Prince Harry VR demo

Prince Harry’s VR demo

The VR prosthetics training system is designed to help prepare people who have been prescribed an upper limb prosthetic. Users need to learn how to control the prosthetic through contracting muscles. While existing systems are basic and repetitive, the game-based system being developed by Ivan’s team is focused and more intuitive as well as more enjoyable for users. The Impact VR Research Lab is working with existing prosthetics users and clinical teams at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Manchester University Hospitals to test the system. The research at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals has clinical input from the Mobility and Specialised Rehabilitation Centre (M&SRC), led by Dr Ramesh Munjal, consultant in Rehabilitation and prosthetics. Ramesh noted:

“I observed a high rejection rate of prosthesis in upper limb amputees and we wanted to develop an interesting and immersive training system. Ivan and his team have just done that.”

Ivan said:

“We plan to make the training system available at home so that users can practice during the weeks before they receive their prosthetic.”

Maurice Lee demonstrates the system

Maurice Lee demonstrates the system

Prince Harry asked Maurice Lee, who suffered severe burns and lost both hands in a car accident over 20 years ago, about his injury and experiences. Maurice told the Prince that it would have made things easier for him if the system had been available when he first got his injury.

Industrial designer Nick Dulake (part of the Art & Design Research Centre’s Design Futures and Lab4Living) is working with the team to develop a weighted sleeve which mimics the weight of the prosthetic, providing a more realistic experience.

The VR Prosthetics project is funded through the UK’s NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) award scheme and has interest from industrial partners.

Maurice Lee with Prince Harry and the VR team

Maurice Lee with Prince Harry and the VR team

Ivan also talked about ongoing VR research with paediatric rehabilitation with the Prince, who had visited the Children’s Hospital earlier in the day. Ivan and his team are currently working on a collaborative project with Sheffield Children’s Hospital researching the ways in which VR might help children through rehab for limb injuries. The work was featured on the BBC earlier this year.

Ivan explained why the project is proving a success with patients and clinicians:

“For young patients, rehab exercises are seen as a chore but if it’s in a game they do it automatically as fun. Physiotherapists at the Children’s Hospital are reporting that the patients using the system are sustaining the effort and improving their level of movement.”

During his visit to Sheffield Hallam University, the Duke also met the CCRC’s CENTRIC team, where he learnt about the SCAAN project technology which provides alerts and assistance to field staff working in inhospitable environments International Organisation for Migration.

Further information

For further information on clinical aspects of this project, please contact Dr Ramesh Munjal, Consultant and Clinical Lead, Mobility and Specialised Rehabilitation Centre (M&SRC), Spinal injuries and Neurorehabilitation unit, Northern General Hospital Sheffield.

The Impact VR Research Lab, which draws on expertise from with Sheffield Hallam University in computing, games design, industrial design and healthcare research, has a proven track record of cutting edge applied VR research in a range of contexts. Contact us for a demonstration and a discussion about how we could help to make your ideas a (virtual!) reality.

Shirley Lindley, Knowledge Transfer Manager
Tel: 0114 225 6747
Email Shirley here

Ivan Phelan, Lead VR Researcher
Tel: 0114 225 6955
Email Ivan here